University News

Commencement speaker Ty Jahnke one of a long line of Warhawks

April 24, 2024

Written by Dave Fidlin | Photos by Craig Schreiner

Before stepping onto campus as a first-year college student, Ty Jahnke was already familiar with the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. After earning two degrees in the past five years, the university has given him a home and a firm foundation for the future.

Jahnke, who first earned his Bachelor of Science in Human Performance in 2023, is graduating with a Master of Science in Applied Kinesiology. He aspires to a career in collegiate coaching, but will first answer a call of duty in the military.

He will share his inspiring story as commencement speaker for UW-Whitewater’s spring 2024 commencement ceremony at 3 p.m. Saturday, May 11.

A 2019 graduate of Watertown High School, he said the decision of where to pursue higher education was reached long before he completed his senior year.

“I’m currently the 15th person in my family to go to UW-Whitewater,” he said. “From a young age, I knew I was going to go here because my grandparents and parents had gone here, and my siblings go here. The family lineage really did it for me, because I grew up following Warhawk sports.”

Another draw to enrolling in UW-Whitewater came by way of sheer talent. A Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Scholar, he was recruited to come to UW-Whitewater for track and field.

The sport was interwoven throughout his time on campus. He earned a number of achievements as captain and high jumper for the team. He was named a Chancellor’s Scholar-Athlete and was a part of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference All-Sportsman Team.

Alongside his personal achievements in track and field, he has served as director of operations and assistant coach for the team from May 2023 to May 2024. He also served as an assistant strength and conditioning coach within the UW-Whitewater Department of Intercollegiate Athletics.


Ty Jahnke kneels on a gym floor with a bar above his head to demonstrate a stretch.

Ty Jahnke leads the Warhawks Softball Team in stretching at the Williams Center. Jahnke, a trainer, always takes care to wear a T-shirt or jacket with the name of the team he will work with. (UW-Whitewater photo/Craig Schreiner)


In addition to his athletic endeavors, Jahnke served multiple years as a resident assistant while living on campus as an undergraduate.

“I really enjoyed the leadership skills I learned from that job,” he said. “I’ve loved my experience here, especially in terms of the people. That’s the best part. This is a small town school. It’s in a great community that is safe. A lot of people know each other here; it’s not too big. I really do think of it as home.”

As he closes out his five years as a UW-Whitewater student, Jahnke said he is especially grateful to two faculty members for the role they played in helping him make it to the finish line.

Mike Johnson, the head track and field coach with UW-Whitewater, has been a mentor to Jahnke over the years.

“He’s definitely had a huge impact on me,” Jahnke said. “He’s always been there for me. You can tell he truly cares about all of his athletes, and not just in the aspect of track; he also wants to help all of us succeed. He’s really guided me in my journey here. I’m very grateful to him.”


Ty Jahnke stands among other young men, one who is doing shoulder flys with dumbbells.

Ty Jahnke is on hand to give advice as the Warhawks Soccer Team lifts weights at the Williams Center. (UW-Whitewater photo/Craig Schreiner)


Jahnke said Brandi Niemeier, a former undergraduate advisor at UW-Whitewater, also played a pivotal role in guiding him throughout many of the years he was working toward his bachelor’s degree.

“Dr. Niemeier was very helpful with everything I needed in my coursework and scheduling classes,” Jahnke said. “She very much guided me throughout my undergraduate days.”

As he looks to the future, he said he is ready to begin a new chapter as he enlists in the United States Air Force, beginning with enrollment in its Officer Training School.

“I’m looking forward to serving in the military, where I will be for at least six years,” he said.

For Jahnke, UW-Whitewater helped him realize his calling in life.

“My first time on campus was in kindergarten,” Jahnke said. “I remember my mom brought me here. This place has always been a part of me. I couldn’t speak more highly of it.”